‘The Black Bridge’ by W.R.M. (30 June, 1860)

The following is a dark, atmospheric tale about the creation of a bridge over the River Ugie, which flows into the north sea at Stonehaven. About the author: as far as I can tell they had one other story published in ‘The People’s Journal’, ‘The Peasant Poet’ from May of 1860.

When I was a child—my chin is still quite downy—I entertained a great love for dark things, and eagerly sought after them for the gratification of my childish mind. This, as well as the heading hereof, will lead you to suppose that the present subject is a dark one; amen! I shall respond, Hoc moda.

I do not exactly remember the very hour, or even year, in which my eyes first formed acquaintance with the subject of my rumination; but well do I remember how exceedingly intimate we became, as the silent tide of years rolled more heavily over my head, and the purling tide of Ugie flowed more familiarity beneath its gloomy parapets. Well do I remember that in morning’s rosy hours, in the sunny hours of noon, in the shady hours of twilight, and in the sombre hours of evening, mine eyes might have been seen beholding it; half-wept tears nestling in their brightness; for the sight of it brought many sad associations into mind. Dark indeed was its aspect, and the memoirs connected with it are likewise far from fair.

At a farmhouse, two or three hundred yards from where the Bridge still is, lived a man accounted by the parish wondrous clever; but what its reasons were for so judging I cannot conceive. All I know of his skill is that he was his own master, his own doctor, and probably would have been his own sexton, had permission been granted by “the powers that be.” These were the only peculiarities that marked his worldly career, and if any one of them is more worthy than the other of the epithet—clever, I know not; bearing this in mind, he died, through caprice, a terrible death; he died a self-destroyer.

He leased a small farm, capable of giving work to a couple of horses, and the said farm was conscientiously reputed to be the best kept in the laird’s whole estate; for its “dear, dear, dead and gone husband”-man took great pains and spared no attention in making it worthy of notice, both for the benefit of his own coffer, and because of the wish he had to excel everybody, in every place, in everything relating to agriculture. Withal, he kept for hire a very useful vehicle of four wheels, a vehicle—in one word, a hearse. I have never discovered why the valuable machine was not employed as a conveyance in the transferring of its owner’s remains from the top of the closet drawers—no, not that—from the court of the now dilapidated steading to the grave in—no!—to the gateway of the village churchyard, a few miles off. There is a mystery hanging about that hearse besides the cottsey-woolsey drapery; and although I have sought all that I thought eligible means of giving light to the sable mystery, I have failed in extracting one single glint of the sunshine of information. All people of whom I enquired merely shook their heads, and assumed, with due gravity, what is called a Sunday’s face; raised a hand, shook it; and if they raised their voice at all, shook it also. Oh! would I not like to hear something believable of that dismal matter? Some person knows, and yet I may die unenlightened. Continue reading “‘The Black Bridge’ by W.R.M. (30 June, 1860)”

‘The Standing Stone of Achorachan; A Glenlivet Tradition’ by Avon. (25 July, 1891)

The following tale won its author the prize of one guinea from ‘The People’s Journal’ for the best local story. On OS Maps the grid reference for the standing stone is NJ 20965 27764, across the River Livet from the Glenlivet distillery and by the farm of Auchorachan. Pleasingly, the standing stone can still be seen atop the brae.

By the main road through Glenlivet from Ballindalloch Station of the Speyside Railway to the village of Tomintoul, the capital of the Banffshire Highlands, the distance is fifteen miles and a half. Between these two places a conveyance runs to and fro daily. The scenery of the Avon (locally A’an) and the Livet is very pretty; the air of the district is pure and bracing, and the number of visitors to Tomintoul (the Square of which is 1100 feet above sea level), is increasing year by year.

If the traveller through Glenlivet will pause a few minutes in his journey nearly opposite the farm of Achorachan at the eighth milestone from Ballindalloch and look Northward down the valley I shall have pleasure in pointing out an object, and in narrating a tradition regarding it. Turning half round to the right, the object to which I would especially direct your attention is that upright stone on the face of the brae, in the middle of what is at present a field of turnips. It is about 200 yards from the road, stands about 6 feet out of the ground, and is apparently composed of grey slate. If that stone could speak, it could no doubt tell many a strange tale of earthly change and vicissitude. As it cannot speak, however, in articulate language, I propose to speak for it, and to rehearse the last remarkable incident in its long and eventful history. The tradition is still quite fresh in the district, and is often referred to, especially by the older folks.

Sixty or seventy years ago the farm of Achorachan was tenanted by a certain Captain Grant, a retired military gentleman. Though a native of Glenlivet, he had spent a good many years abroad, and had seen hard service in those dire campaigns of which Napoleon was the moving spirit. As a military officer he had been accustomed to be obeyed, and like many others, civilian as well as military, he liked to have his own way. Continue reading “‘The Standing Stone of Achorachan; A Glenlivet Tradition’ by Avon. (25 July, 1891)”